Settlers prepare to move from Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and settler leaders worked yesterday to hammer out a compromise that would move thousands of Gaza settlers en masse to an area on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, even before the country’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer.
The tense and deeply emotional meeting was the first concrete sign that many settlers were willing to cooperate with the pullout and abandon threats of violent resistance.
‘‘We understand that there is no choice. We are one people, we want to remain one people, so that’s why we met with the prime minister,’’ said Eliezer Yaakov, a representative of the Gan Or settlement at the two-hour meeting.
The settlers have vigorously opposed Sharon’s ‘’disengagement’’ plan, holding huge rallies, plastering the country with protest slogans, pushing for a national referendum to delay the pullout, and encouraging their allies in parliament to try to bring down the government.
Cardinals prepare to select the new pope
The College of Cardinals met yesterday for a second day to prepare for the election of Pope John Paul II’s successor, which will be announced by a ringing of bells in addition to the centuries-old practice of sending up puffs of white smoke.
Tens of thousands of mourners continued to stream past the pontiff’s crimson-robed body in St. Peter’s Basilica, where it has lain in state since Monday, and an estimated 2 million Poles were expected to travel to Rome for Friday’s funeral.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the cardinals had not yet decided on a date for the conclave, which according to church law must occur between 15 and 20 days after the death of a pope.
The cardinals have not yet read John Paul’s spiritual testament, he said. They spent yesterday continuing to work out details of the funeral, in which John Paul will be laid to rest with regal pageantry near the tomb that is traditionally believed to be that of the first pope, St. Peter.
British PM Blair calls national elections
Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday called national elections on May 5, triggering an eight-week campaign that will test a volatile electorate’s judgment of the Iraq war.
Despite lingering anger over the U.S.-led invasion, Blair’s governing Labour Party is widely expected to win a third term in office, bolstered by a strong economy.
‘‘We are proud of what we have achieved in the last eight years,’’ Blair said after asking Queen Elizabeth II’s permission to dissolve Parliament.
‘‘It’s a big choice and there’s a lot at stake,’’ he added, standing on the steps of his Downing Street office. ‘‘The British people are the boss, and they are the ones who will make it.’’
Several opinion polls published yesterday showed Labour giving ground slightly to the main opposition Conservative Party, although still holding a lead of between 2 and 5 percentage points.
Given the margin of error, the parties were virtually neck and neck. Analysts say, however, that the Conservatives would need a lead of several points to win the election due to an uneven spread of constituencies across Britain’s electoral map.
FBI asks Congress to strengthen PATRIOT Act
The Bush administration’s two top law enforcement officials yesterday urged Congress to renew every provision of the anti-terror USA PATRIOT Act. FBI Director Robert Mueller also asked lawmakers to expand the bureau’s ability to obtain records without first asking a judge.
‘‘Now is not the time for us to be engaging in unilateral disarmament’’ on the legal weapons now available for fighting terrorism, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said. He said that some of the most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act have proven invaluable in fighting terrorism and aiding other investigations.
‘‘It’s important that these authorities remain available,’’ Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
-Compiled from Daily wire reports